by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
If you’re like most people, you consider seeing a counselor when something isn’t working in life. The problem you face may be internal, like depression or anxiety. Or it could be external, like a difficult relationship or an overwhelming life circumstance. The problem persists even though you’ve tried everything you know to fix the problem. Doubt and disappointment begin to cloud your horizon as you look at the future.
A Good Counselor
A good counselor will meet you right where you are with acceptance, empathy, and understanding. A counseling relationship can provide a sense of hope which leads to more flexible thinking about the past, present, and future.
Rather than solving your problems, the counselor provides a safe relational environment and a healing presence. With their help, you learn you can “bear the unbearable” as they bear it with you.
A Christian Counselor
A Christian counselor understands that God’s Spirit is the primary Helper and Healer in the counseling room. As such, the counselor invites you to relate in two directions: “horizontally” with the counselor and “vertically” with God.
This is particularly important with your expression of emotions. As I will explore in the 3rd part of this series, emotions are like the lights on the dashboard of your car letting you know that something is going on in the “engine” of your soul. Though emotions are often provoked by horizontal relationships and life experiences, ultimately they reveal what you believe about God.
The Bible makes it clear that God wants a relationship with you. His promise repeated over and over is, “I am with you.” But let’s be honest, it’s a promise that’s hard to believe when life hurts.
Lamenting Has Purpose
Maybe you struggle with experiencing and expressing emotion. If so, you’re not alone. Most people do. This is especially true with the “darker” emotions like fear, anger, grief, despair, jealousy, and loneliness. These emotions tend to dominate when life gets overwhelming. Counseling provides a place to explore these difficult emotions in a safe horizontal relationship.
A Christian counselor will also encourage you to express those emotions to God. When you do so, you participate in what are called prayers of lament or complaint. Laments are found all through the Bible, including from the lips of Jesus. The Psalms in particular give us many voices of lament.
The process of lament is crucial for the same reason emotional expression and validation are vital in horizontal relationships: it is the deep longing of every human to be known and accepted. When you share your difficult emotions and experiences with another, including God, you open yourself to receiving consolation. When you keep them to yourself, your suffering increases because you were not meant to bear your burdens alone.
Biblical Understanding of Lament
If you want to understand lament, Psalm 13 serves as a “primer.” The first 2 verses express an honest expression of emotion resulting from painful circumstances. The second 2 verses beg God to respond. The last 2 verses pledge trust in God no matter the circumstance.
Each of these sections is an important aspect of lament, and participating in lament requires more than a “one and done” effort. Rather, it involves an ongoing process that keeps your heart open in relationship with God through unpleasant experiences. In other words, it helps solidify a relational attachment bond with God that is vital for any life-giving relationship.
Perhaps you are reading this because you are in the middle of a difficult life situation. Perhaps you are wondering, “Where is God when life hurts so much?” An important step might be to write out a lament that expresses your pain and confusion to God using Psalm 13 as a guide and template.
Learn More About Lament
You can also learn more in the following posts in our 5-part series on lament:
- Importance of Lament (Here)
- Purpose of Lament
- Emotions and Lament
- Process of Lament (Coming Soon!)
- Hope and Waiting in Lament (Coming Soon!)
CONSIDER ONLINE THERAPY IN OREGON FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELING
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AT LIFE DISCOVERY COUNSELING IN OREGON
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!